Izaak Walton

Izaak Walton

Izaak Walton

Izaak Walton

Excerpt

THE MENTION of Izaak Walton's name immediately suggests The Compleat Angler , the contemplative man's recreation, the peaceful fisherman, book in hand, depicted in the memorial window in Winchester Cathedral. It seems almost treasonable to allege that the extraordinary popularity of the book has resulted in a distorted picture of its author; but extraordinary is the mildest word that can be applied to its reputation. Its real vogue only began when Walton had been in his grave for well over a hundred years. True, it was well received, and was re-issued, with various alterations and additions, four times during his life; but it then had to wait more than seventy years to be rescued from obscurity, and it was not till after 1823 that the spate of re-issues began in earnest. Whereas in the eighteenth century there were only ten editions of the book, in the nineteenth there were a hundred and fifty-nine, and in the first half of the twentieth century more than a hundred reprints have appeared. The Compleat Angler is more than a minor classic; in its way it is a best-seller. The ingredients of the book--its combination of practical advice with pastoral fantasy and good-humoured piety--are of a kind to commend it, even today, to English palates; and among the devotees of Walton are a number of readers who might not relish so heartily works of greater literary pretensions.

To Walton himself the book was, explicitly, a recreation, written during the Cromwellian ascendancy to solace himself for the loss of happy bygone days. The work to which he devoted much patient labour through many years was the compilation of his five Lives ; and these received on their appearance quite as warm a welcome as that accorded to The Compleat Angler . Each single Life was re-issued more than once during Walton's lifetime (Hooker's no less than six times) and he continued to enlarge and correct his . . .

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